US government considering digital trade agreement with Indo-Pacific partners

The US government is reportedly considering proposals for a digital trade agreement covering Indo-Pacific economies. The Biden administration is willing to counter China’s growing influence in the region and to couple US’s current military presence with strategic economic goals. According to Bloomberg, details of the potential agreement are still being drafted, but the pact could potentially include countries such as Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore. The White House’s plans have been criticized by Chinese state media outlets, calling them a bid to protect American hegemony and the profits of tech companies. While US analysts welcomed the news, they also suggested that the US could consider joining the Digital Economy Partnership (DEPA) instead of negotiating a new digital trade agreement. DEPA is currently in place between New Zealand, Singapore and Chile, covering a broad range of digital issues, such as cross-border data flows, cybersecurity, and small-and-medium-sized-enterprises (SMEs). The flexible format of the agreement, built upon modules, is being praised as an innovative approach to building partnership on issues related to the digital economy, avoiding the complexity of trade negotiations.